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Presidential Elections in Tajikistan: No Intrigue or Surprise

Experts’ assumptions that the country’s leader Emomali Rahmon would nominate his son for this election are disproved.

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Message on the banner: The Presidential election is a symbol of the democracy development in Tajikistan. Photo: CABAR.asia

The main phase of the Presidential elections begun in Tajikistan. The Central Commission for Elections and Referenda of the Republic of Tajikistan announced that five people are running for the President of Tajikistan, including the incumbent President Emomali Rahmon. The only self-nominated candidate Faromuz Irgashev will not be able to participate in the elections, since he did not manage to collect the required for registration 260 thousand signatures. In this situation, many experts believe that the election results are already known, and the participation of candidates close to the authorities is required to imitate a resemblance of competition.

On Monday, September 14, the Central Commission for Elections published a list of the registered candidates for the Presidential election. According to the Central Commission, the following candidates will participate in the elections: Rustam Latifzoda from the Agrarian Party, Abduhalim Gafforzoda from the Socialist Party, Rustam Rahmatzoda from the Party of Economic Reform, Meroj Abdulloev from the Communist Party and Emomali Rahmon, who was nominated by three social and political organizations: People’s Democratic Party, Youth Union and Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Tajikistan.

The Central Commission for Elections stated that the Chairman of the Democratic Party Saidjafar Usmonzoda was denied registration, because the documents did not comply with the requirements of two articles of the Law on Presidential Election. They provide a procedure for collecting signatures in support of candidates.

Possibly, the Central Commission for Elections did not accept the signatures collected by the Democratic Party. Although, last week, Saidjafar Usmonzoda stated that he collected more than 285 thousand signatures and submitted them to the Commission.

The Social Democratic Party of Tajikistan, which experts consider as the only real opposition party in the country, announced a boycott of the elections. At the end of August, Party’s leader Rahmatillo Zoirov said that the Presidential elections were “illegal” and “antinational”.

Rahmatillo Zoirov. Photo: dw.com

According to Zoirov, the incumbent President Emomali Rahmon, as the Head of state, has no right to be the Chairman of the party. He believes that his leadership in the People’s Democratic Party has destroyed the multi-party system in Tajikistan.

In his opinion, the Law on Presidential Elections of Tajikistan does not comply with the Constitution, and the decision of the Central Commission for Elections to schedule the elections earlier is illegal.

Zoirov noted that it is impossible to collect 5% of voters’ signatures (260 thousand) in one month. He added that all members of local polling stations are representatives of the authorities interested in protecting the ruling party’s interests.

Meanwhile, the only self-nominated candidate in the elections, Faromuz Irgashev, a 30-year-old lawyer from the administrative center of GBAO, the city of Khorog, refused to participate in the Presidential elections.

In CABAR.asia interview, Irgashev said that his team did not manage to collect 5% of voters’ signatures, and therefore, he is terminates his participation in the election.

Why Emomali Rahmon Again?

Presidential elections in Tajikistan are held every seven years. This is the sixth Presidential election during state’s independence.

This year’s election was scheduled for November 6, but due to the pandemic, in early August, the Parliament postponed it to October 11. After the announcement of the election date, it was intriguing who would be the ruling party’s candidate: Emomali Rahmon or his eldest son Rustam Emomali. For the last several years, Rustam Emomali is the mayor of Dushanbe and concurrently presides over the Upper Chamber of the Tajik Parliament, both formally and in fact being the second in command in the state.

In 2017, the country’s Constitution was amended to lower the age for future Presidents from 35 to 30. Observers concluded that the President Rahmon is paving the way for his son to participate in the 2020 elections.

Emomali Rahmon and Rustam Emomali. Photo: president.tj

However, on August 26, it became clear that these assumptions were wrong. The Independent Trade Union of Tajikistan, which has the right to nominate, announced the current Head of state Emomali Rahmon as its candidate.

A few days later, the Youth Union and the ruling People’s Democratic Party also nominated Rahmon. The experts expectedly noted that the main intrigue of the election disappeared, and Emomali Rahmon will be re-elected as the President.

According to the Constitutional Law of the Republic of Tajikistan on the Leader of the Nation, “Founder of Peace and National Unity – Leader of the Nation of the Republic of Tajikistan”, Emomali Rahmon has an unlimited right to nominate himself for the Presidency. Emomali Rahmon has run for the President five times.

According to some experts, the reasons that incited President Emomali Rahmon to re-nominate were the recent events in Belarus and the insufficient preparation for the transfer of power to his successor.

Meanwhile, some opposition media based outside Tajikistan have repeatedly reported that the Kremlin allegedly disapproved Rahmon’s plans to nominate his son Rustam Emomali for the upcoming elections.

Various analysts underline that in such situations, the unspoken rules in the Central Asian region require the approval of such issues by the Kremlin.

A Young Candidate No One Expected

During the current campaign, a new name appeared. Faromuz Irgashev, young lawyer from Khorog, said he wanted to run for President on his own. Unlike other alternative candidates, the Tajik social media users actively discussed Irgashev.

Н О М З А Д катибае дар варақаи раъйдиҳӣ ГУФТОВАРД“Ҳангоме, ки шаб фуруд меояд, ситораҳо падид меоянд, ҳангоме ки…

Опубликовано Дододжоном Атовуллоевым Четверг, 10 сентября 2020 г.

Pro-government fake accounts from the so-called “answer factories” paid their attention to Faromuz Irgashev as well, and severely criticized his decision.

Later, a letter from the local teacher Nasim Saidrahmonov was published on the Facebook page of the GBAO administration, where he criticized Irgashev’s initiative.

According to the teacher, the current legislation does not provide for self-nomination, and therefore, the lawyer Irgashev had to comply with the legal requirements.

In addition, the Center for Strategic Studies under the President of Tajikistan published a critical letter signed by a leading specialist Ashurov, unknown in local expert circles.

This letter notes that Irgashev has no management experience, “does not correctly understand the national interests” and therefore, he cannot take the responsibility for the nation and the state.

Faromuz Irgashev told CABAR.asia that he decided to run for the President himself and that no groups were behind this decision. According to Irgashev, he made the decision to run in the elections three years ago, when the age of the Presidential candidate was lowered from 35 to 30 years.

“In 2017, when I moved from place to place, I was asked what I plan to do in the future. I answered that in 2020, I will run for President. This was my personal decision. If anyone has any doubts, I will prove it. Law enforcement agencies also found confirmation that there were no groups behind me,” Irgashev added.

The Law on Presidential Election of Tajikistan does not provide for self-nomination. According to the Law, only candidates nominated by the political parties, trade unions, the Youth Union and regional assemblies have the right to participate in the election. According to Faromuz Irgashev, this limits the citizens’ rights, so he is going to apply to the Constitutional Court for amendments.

Oynihol Bobonazarova. Photo: CABAR.asia

“This legal requirement violates many constitutional rights of the citizens, starting with spending a lot of time on collecting signatures and the need to certify them with the heads of cities and regions. The latter represent the government party and find various pretexts not to confirm the signatures,” said Irgashev.

This is not the first time that opposition candidates in Tajikistan were unable to run due to the lack of signatures. In 2013, Oynihol Bobonazarova, candidate from two opposition parties in Tajikistan, was not able to collect 5% of the signatures as well. The international organizations and the opposition have repeatedly criticized these requirements of Tajik legislation.

Parviz Mullojanov. Photo: CABAR.asia

Critics say that collecting 5% of voters’ signatures and approving them with the city and district chairpersons is an obstacle by which the authorities obstruct the opposition candidates. Authorities deny these accusations.

Thus, the October elections will be held without any real opposition candidates. All four of Emomali Rahmon’s opponents are members of the Lower Chamber of the Parliament and Leaders of pro-government parties.

All of these parties participated in the last two Presidential campaigns, in which they collectively collected less than 5% of the votes. In the final statements, they agreed with the election results.

However, despite the absence of the opposition candidates, experts say that the election creates certain difficulties for authorities.

Political analyst Parviz Mullojanov says the government did not experience such a crisis for at least the past ten years.

“The current coronavirus crisis is serious and affects Tajikistan and other countries. Its impact on people’s living standards is a new phenomenon,” the Tajik political analyst noted.

According to him, events in Belarus, difficulties in Russia and economic problems of Tajikistan serve as additional factors to the elections.

“From this perspective, the situation is completely different. In other words, the point is not in the elections, but in the conditions under which they will be held,” Mullojanov summed up.

This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project

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